Brand new baby monkeys and lemurs have given Hunter Valley Zoo staff something to celebrate, with 15 births in just a matter of weeks, including the first two black-handed spider monkeys to be born at the Nulkaba zoo.
The new arrivals set a zoo record with 13 primate births since the start of October.
Zoo keepers say all the new primates, along with two mammals born during the same period - South American capybaras - are settling in well and are already on display.
The baby boom includes five common marmoset monkeys, twin ring tail lemurs as well as the two new black-handed spider monkeys, born within 10 days, and four Bolivian squirrel monkeys, arriving within a week.
“It was like ‘there’s one’, then ‘oh there’s another one’, then ‘oh my gosh, there’s another one’,” primate keeper Daisy Murphy said.
“Everyone was just so excited.”
Classified as an endangered species, the two black-handed spider monkeys are an extra special addition, becoming the first of their kind to be born at Hunter Valley Zoo and marking a big step forward for their breeding program in Australia.
“Spider monkeys have proven difficult to breed in Australia over the past 10 years so to add two little bodies is fantastic,” Ms Murphy said.
“I am absolutely stoked.”
The spider monkeys are a main attraction for visitors, as the babies are more visible and are in the stages of clinging onto their mothers’ chests with “big eyes, bright and beaming open”, Ms Murphy said.
Raising awareness about conservation and enlightening people about the real-life situations of the zoo’s primate species is important to the Hunter Valley Zoo visitor experience, with a keeper giving a talk on the subject daily.
Another highlight for visitors is watching the slightly older common marmoset and lemur babies “running and playing and jumping off things”, Ms Murphy said, but no matter which ones are spotted, the babies are often visitors’ “favourite thing of the day”.
Although Ms Murphy believes no more primate births are expected this season, the fun of naming their 15 latest additions is something the public can look forward to, with a possible naming competition on the horizon.
All 13 of the “cuties” are already on display and the public are invited to join in the excitement.